Working with Techincal and Scientific English

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Working with Techincal and Scientific English

Mari Carmen Campoy Cubillo

DepartamentD’estuDis anglesos

Codis d’assignatura:

Anglès Cientificotècnic (Idioma Modern)

Materia Bàsica Enginyeria EX1005


Edita: Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I. Servei de Comunicació i Publicacions Campus del Riu Sec. Edifici Rectorat i Serveis Centrals. 12071 Castelló de la Plana e-mail:

Col·lecció Sapientia, 68 Primera edició, 2012 ISBN: 978-84-695-4965-0

Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I és una editorial membre de l’une, cosa que en garanteix la difusió de les obres en els àmbits nacional i internacional.

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Introduction . . . 5

Unit 1

An introduction to technical and scientific vocabulary . . . 6 Word formation . . . 9-22

Some key verbs in research articles . . . 22-38 Finding information: dictionary use . . . 38-65

Unit 2

Writing: text structure and organisation. . . 66 What is a topic sentence? . . . 67-69 Organising your ideas: . . . .

– Writing – Time sequence

69-72 Organisational structures . . . .

– Organising reasons – Explaining reasons – Cause and effect


Organising your ideas . . . . – Conclusion

– Evaluating a situation

90-95 Understanding the language: the word RESULT . . . 96-99 Organising your ideas: argumentation . . . 99-100 Organisational structures: comparison and contrast . . . 101-107

Unit 3

Definition and descriptive language . . . 108 Definitions: patterns and examples . . . 110-113 Complex noun phrases . . . 113-117 Working with definitions: defining plants, gardens and pests . . . 118-134 Plant response: Expressing cause and result . . . 134-135 How things work . . . 136-142


Unit 4

Written and spoken genres . . . 143 Understanding the language: research article format . . . 144-162 Speaking: Public speech . . . 163-168 Speaking: Interview . . . 168-172 Speaking: Asking for things . . . 173-177 Speaking: Lectures . . . 178-180 Speaking: Job interviews . . . 181-187

Unit 5

Analysing and synthesising written and visual information . . . 188 Visual aids. Phrases introducing the interpretation of data or a

general comment on the information provided . . .

190 Expressing contrast . . . 190-191 GRAPHS: Line graphs; Bar graphs; Diagrams / drawings;

Photographs; Pie charts; Flowcharts; Summarising and

concluding; Relating the discussion with the conclusion . . .


Understanding the language: working with graphs . . . 196-201 Processing and presenting information: visual aids . . . 202-204 Short texts: summaries and outlines . . . 204-209 Organising your ideas: writing . . . 209-211 Key . . . . . . 212 References . . . 231



This book is divided into five different chapters. You may follow chapters one by one or decide to choose different activities from each chapter each week. A key section providing information for the teacher is available at the end of the book.

In the reference section you will find the sources of the texts used in this textbook, some reference bibliography, a corpus references and a list of online dictionaries and encyclopaedias.

A number of lexis activities in this book have been designed using SketchEngine1, a corpus query system that allows automatic extraction of grammatical and collocational behaviour of words (i.e. how words are typically used in combination with one another). SketchEngine is a highly useful tool for teachers and learners alike since it easily provides practical and valuable information on specific word searches suggesting insightful ways to deal with vocabulary and specific topics a user may be interested in.

When you see this box it means that the task has been designed using SketchEngine <>. The British National Corpus was used selecting only written informative texts belonging to the applied science, natural and pure science domains in written books and periodicals. Data cited herein have been extracted from the British National Corpus2, distributed by Oxford University Computing Services on behalf of the bnc Consortium. All rights in the texts cited are reserved. For some exercises sample sentences were taken from the UKWaC British English Web Corpus.

In unit one, a corpus of 25 research articles from journals specialised in technical ceramics (see references) is used in the design of the language study sections together with the bnc corpus.

1. SketchEngine <> (see Kilgarriff, Pavel Rychly, Pavel Smrz and David Tugwell (2004).

The Sketch Engine in Williams G. and S. Vesssier (eds.): Proceedings of the Eleventh euralex International Congress.

Lorient, France, July: 105-11 6.) (Reprinted in Lexicology: Critical concepts in Linguistics, Hanks, editor. Routledge, 2007)




An introducion to technical

and scientific vocabulary


This unit is an introduction to some features of the morphosyntactic structure of technical and scientific vocabulary. It will also introduce some concepts and ideas on the use and understanding of information contained in online dictionaries and other lexical databases.

The aim of this unit is to become familiar with and infer the meaning of scientific and technical vocabulary by identifying the most common prefixes and suffixes in science and technology texts. We will also study examples of how to use and make the most out of online dictionaries.


Aims) Students try to find out the main components of dictionaries. They should all bring one dictionary to the classroom (monolingual if possible). The main aim of the activity is to make students aware that dictionaries may be used for many other purposes different from finding translations for words.

Procedure) Students work in groups and fill in the questionnaire for their (personal) dictionary. Then, they fill in the final questions after a brief discussion with the group.


1. Which dictionary are you using? Write down its name here _______________


2. How many languages does your dictionary include? Which ones?_______


Is your dictionary (a) monolingual, (b) bilingual, or (c) multilingual? _______


3. How many different sections does your dictionary have? Write the name of the sections and explain what each section offers:


4. You will have noticed that the section including the list of words with information for each word is the longest one. Does your dictionary contain the following information? Write an example for each kind of information it does contain:

a) entry

b) pronunciation

c) different word spellings (Am. /Br.)

d) different forms of the verb or noun

e) translation of words

f) different meanings of the same word

g) examples of use

h) grammar explanations

i) style comments

j) idioms

k) pictures / drawings

How do you know that different information is provided? Do the different features share the same format or are they highlighted in a different way (e.g., italics, bold, capital letters...). In the previous list, state which format is used for the different kinds of information.


We will now:

· Introduce word-formation with special emphasis on AFFIXATION (prefixes and suffixes)

· Discuss how social and cultural issues lead to the formation of new words which are flexible enough to allow the generation of several or many related terms.

In this section you will be asked to:

- listen to a text about plastic light-emitting diodes and their influence on the optical telecommunications market

- identify some compound words - define new compound words

- decide which hyphenated words fit better in a number of example sentences We will discuss some issues related to word formation. First, a number of hyphenated words will be identified. Then, we will pay attention to the prefix

«cyber-» in order to study how new words may be formed. After this, we will examine a few examples with degree prefixes.


Word Formation

There are three main types of word-formation: AFFIXATION (adding prefixes or suffixes to a base: un-friend-ly, pre-determine), CONVERSION (a word is converted into a new class, release (noun) > release (verb)), and COMPOUNDING (the joining of two bases where the first usually subcategorizes the second: bottle- feed). In this book we will study affixation only but you may go to the references for more information on word formation.


Important categories of both technical and non-technical terms are:

u Novel forms. Most are borrowings, initialisms (the first letter or letters of words in a phrase: ESP for Extrasensory Perception) and acronyms. An interesting example of acronym is defined below:

S-W-A-G stands for a Scientific Wild Ass Guess. It’s sometimes used more as a tongue-in-cheek way of saying: «This estimate isn’t really reliable. I pulled it out of the air.»

Taken from How to Turn a WAG (Wild-Ass-Guess) Into a SWAG (Scientific-Wild- Ass-Guess) ( into-a-swag-scientific-wild-ass-guess/ )


Read the whole article from which the definition of SWAG is taken and try to summarise its content.

Novel words are closely followed by:

v Words formed from roots already existing in the language and in frequent use. According to Van Dyke (1992:390), «Their roots’ definitions associate them with their new fields of meaning. Familiar in form and at least partly self-explanatory they lie on the border between new words and descriptive phrases. They are well-suited to a culture committed equally to innovation and accessible mass communication».

In fact, «Reality determines the language used to describe it, the way in which new terms are created may reveal (and)... help to create the kind of object that is known and the kind of knowledge that is formulated» (Van Dyke, 1992:394).

It should be pointed out that texting processes resemble to a large extent to initialisms and acronyms.

WRITE AN EMAIL TO A CLASSMATE Have some fun: go to the Dictionary of Text Messaging Abbreviations and Acronyms for Chat, E-mail, Mobile & Cell Phones (

index.php). Be creative and try to compose a long message combining several of the entries in this dictionary. Send it to a classmate to see if they can understand the message. The first person able to decipher the message without looking at the dictionary will win the game.

Example: AYK we R W4Y @ the WKND



In English we may build up words by adding morphemes before or after a root or base word. We call this prefixation and suffixation.

Phonetics: Prefixes and suffixes are usually unstressed but this is not so:

- for the suffix -ette which has the primary stress - for disyllabic prefixes (inter-)

- when the base a prefix attaches to is unstressed (unattractive: /,ʌnə’træktɪv/) - when the prefix is used to indicate a new use of an old item (re-, pre-)

(See: Quirk 1985, and Bauer 1983) 1.1. PREFIXATION is a productive resource in the language of science and

technology since it allows the creation of new concepts which are also transparent enough to be generally understood by a professional community.

The list below explains the meaning of common English prefixes that are used in scientific and technical texts.

Common prefixes are:

a = no, absence of, without mono = one, single

ab = away from, off morph = shape, form, appearance ante = before, prior to poly = many or much

aqua/hydr = water pro = before, in favour of

bi = two, twice re = do something again

circum = in a circle, around sub = under, below

co = together, to the same extent super = superior in size, quality or degree, exceeding the norm de = undo, apart, away, do the opposite

dis = in all directions, apart, away syn = joined together en = into, in, within trans = across or through

ex = outside, out of tri = three

hyper = above, high ultra = beyond, to an extreme degree hypo = below, deficient, under un = not

infra = inferior, beneath uni = same, one isos = equal, uniform

Number: some prefixes indicate number, for example:

1 – mono, one (as in one-fire) 9 – nona

2 – di, bis, bi 10 – deca


4 – tetra 1000 – kilia

5 – penta 100000 – myria

6 – hexa nano – a billionth

7 – hepta semi – half

8 – octa multi – many

There are also time prefixes, like pre-, ante- (meaning before), post- (after).

Negative, privative and pejorative prefixes are common to indicate the opposite meaning to that of the root word or to express a negative quality or process.

Examples of negative prefixes are: anti-, dis-, il-, in-, mal-, mis-, non-, pseudo-, un- as in antifreeze, incomplete, malfunction, malware, misaligned.

Degree prefixes

The prefixes ultra-, super-, over-, extra-, and hyper- are very frequent in science texts. They are used to convey a similar meaning: a high degree or amount of something (i.e., they may be paraphrased with expressions such as «very big»,

«extremely», «very» or «superior»).

The lexicon of present-day English is changing rapidly and regularly, but lexical change usually involves material already present in the language system. Prefixes can be attached to a noun, an adjective, past participle, or verb, in order to generate neologisms in scientific English.3 Observe the examples below:


Super + Noun super-computers

Super + Adj.

super-galactic Super + Past Part. superheated

Extra + Noun extra-length

Extra + Adj.


Hyper + Noun hypersystem

Hyper + Adj.

hyper-accurate, hyper-dense

Hyper + Past Part. hyper- abreviated

Over + Verb

[finite and non-finite verbs]

over-concerned, over- speeding, over-design Over + Adj.

over-stimulated Over + Noun over- reaction

Over + Adverb

over-friendly, over-sixties

Ultra + Noun ultrafiltration (technique) Ultra + Adjective ultra-pure, ultra-sharp Ultra + Adj. + N.

ultra-high-tem- perature (treat- ment)

ultra-low-sul- phur (diesel)

3. This information is based on Campoy, M. C. and Coll, J. F. (2001) «Degree and Size Prefixes in Scientific English:

Neologisms With Ultra-, Super-, Hyper-, Extra, and Over-». in Palmer, J. C.; Posteguillo, S.; Fortanet, I. (Eds.) Discourse Analysis and Terminology in Languages for Specific Purposes. Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I. 313-324.


Some of the roots joined to these prefixes require a specific prefix+root combination. These specific usages do not accept the use of another prefix with the same meaning. Examples are: ultra-violet, ultra-sonic, or hyper-text.

Other degree prefixes may be used freely to combine with the same roots (usually roots of a general nature). Although some of these combinations may be used to convey the same sense, there is a gradation in degree and size which goes from the lowest to the highest in the following order:

super- > extra- > ultra-

When more than one prefix is possible with the same base, it should be pointed out that the higher the prefix the more likely it is for the resulting word to be related to a more specialised field. Thus, we talk of extra-sensitive photographic film but of ultra-sensitive gamma-ray detector.

All the prefixes in the table above express a high degree of something, but some of them show particular preferences:

While extra- tends to combine with more general words (extra-high, extra-long, extra-strong), hyper- is usually combined with more specific terms (hyper- cholesterolaemia).

The prefix over- has a negative prosody which means that it adds a negative value to the words it is attached to. Thus, if you are enthusiastic about something it means that you show a lively interest in something or show great excitement and interest about something (for instance, we may talk about an enthusiastic response) but if you are overenthusiastic it means that maybe you are being too enthusiastic and this enthusiasm excess may have some negative effects or consequences: «there is nothing more dangerous than an over-friendly wild or feral animal».

The pattern Ultra + Adjective + Noun (e.g., ultra-high-temperature treatment, ultra-low-sulphur diesel) is usually found with the adjectives high and low.

Combine the prefixes super-, extra-, ultra-, and over- with the following word bases to fill in the gaps in the sentences below:

Large (2) production (1) fast (2) long (2) pricing (1) cold (2) high (2) sensitive (2) positive (1) - Because they are run on your PC rather than across the Internet they do not

require a powerful computer and _________ connection.

- There will be new forms of military remote sensing equipment, and low cost  


- Critique of what is claimed to be a new, ____________ stereotype of ageing which denies its problems.

- Hotronic says the batteries were developed for _________ conditions.

- Researchers at the University of Innsbruck have done just that with __________ lithium atoms, chilled to within 200 millionths of a degree of absolute zero.

- Using an _________ Spf sunscreen that - according to conventional reason - can stave off skin tumours.

- Terrestrial television transmission is ____________ frequency (uhf).

- This will be captured on _____________ photographic film.

- naSa’s ________________ gamma-ray detector will ride on its Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope.

- Kipnis and Tsang (1984b) analysed the S&P500 index for the period from April 1982 to January 1983 and, after allowing for transaction costs, found a considerable number of departures from the no-arbitrage condition, with both ______ and under______ being present.

- This was achieved by building an ___________ cavern in Norway which goes back to the early 1970s.

- They jumped in size from 200 000 to 300 000 and even 400 000 tonnes, earning the title ulccs, for _____________ crude carriers.

- This helped the animal to be active and healthy despite being handicapped by ___________ feathers.

- naSa’s ____________ Duration Balloon (uldb) project.

- Oestrogen has a negative feed-back effect on the pituitary gland thus checking __________ of fSh-rh.




Suffixes may be added to nouns, adjectives or verbs. It may be helpful to know the most common ones in order to recognise their meaning when you come across new words containing them. Have a look at the table below. In it you will see a list of suffixes that are added to different word classes. For each suffix, try to add an example:


Suffix Meaning Example your example Verb Suffixes

-ate become eliminate

-en become harden

-ify, -fy make or become mummify

-ize, -ise become, make, do sth. with synthesize Noun Suffixes

-acy state or quality accuracy

-al act or process of rehearsal

-ance, -ence state or quality of protuberance

-dom place or state of being freedom

-er, -or one who worker, warrior

-ism doctrine, belief journalism

-ist one who chemist

-ization process or result of doing sth. fossilization

-ity, -ty quality of alkalinity

-ment condition of development

-ness state of being loneliness

-ship position held scholarship

-sion, -tion state of being, action or process intimidation Adjective Suffixes

-able, -ible capable, inclined to breakable, -al pertaining to, of the kind of,

having the form of


-ful notable for powerful

-ic, -ical relating to, having the characteristics of

biological, ethic -ious, -ous characterized by, having the

quality of, full of

religious, poisonous

-ish having the quality of greenish

-ive performing, having the nature of creative

-less without odourless

-morph shape, form or appearance allomorph

-y characterized by, condition sleepy


Biological and Chemical Warfare

The following text will be read by your teacher. Listen carefully and try to understand and then write the missing words. After reading the text you may want to try and write a summary.


Biological and Chemical Warfare

During the gulf war, the threat of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons felt very _____, because it was known that Iraq had done extensive research on these weapons. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the threat feels very ____ again. A chemical or biological weapon used in a large city would kill thousands of people.

Understanding Warfare

There is an interesting paradox when it comes to war in the modern world. Anyone who has experienced war knows that it is about death and __________ on a massive scale. People die one at a time because of bullets, _________, hand _________

and __________, and they die in large groups because of _______, _____ and __________. Buildings, factories or entire cities get destroyed.

Despite the appearance of anarchy, warfare between modern nations does have rules. These rules, for example, tend to discourage the wholesale destruction of ________, and they govern the treatment of _____________. The rules are not always followed to the letter, and many times are broken completely, but they do exist.

Chemical weapons were _____ used in World War I, and the nations of the world quickly and uniformly decided that these weapons went too far. Apparently, killing people with flying metal and explosives was one thing, but launching a cloud of deadly chemicals – the effects of which could neither be predicted nor controlled – was another. Significant _____ prohibiting biological and chemical weapons, starting as early as the 1925 Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, have been signed by most nations of the world.

The unfortunate problem is that terrorists, and rogue nations like Iraq, don’t pay attention to significant international treaties. That is where the threat of chemical and biological weapons used in random attacks on innocent civilian populations comes _____.

The Basics of Chemical and Biological Weapons

Like a nuclear bomb, a chemical or biological weapon is a weapon of mass destruction. An effective attack using a chemical or biological agent can easily kill thousands of people.


Chemical Weapons

A chemical weapon is any weapon that uses a manufactured chemical to kill people. The first chemical weapon used effectively in battle was _____________, which burns and destroys lung tissue. Chlorine is not an exotic chemical. Most municipal water systems use it today to kill bacteria. It is easy to manufacture from _______ table salt. In World War I, the German army released tons of the gas to create a cloud that the wind carried toward the enemy.

Modern chemical weapons tend to focus on agents with much greater killing power, meaning that it takes a lot less of the chemical to kill the same number of people. Many of them use the sorts of chemicals found in __________. When you spray your lawn or garden with a chemical to control _______, you are, in essence, waging a chemical war on aphids.

Many of us tend to imagine a chemical weapon as a bomb or missile that releases highly toxic chemicals over a city (for example, the movie The Rock featured a scenario in which terrorists tried to launch a missile loaded with the chemical VX, a nerve toxin). But in 1995, the group Aum Shinrikyo released sarin ___, a neurotoxin, in the Tokyo subway. Thousands were wounded and 12 people were killed. No giant bombs or missiles were involved – the terrorists used small exploding cannisters to release the ____ in the subway.

Biological Weapons

A biological weapon uses a bacteria or virus, or in some cases _____ that come directly from bacteria, to kill people. If you were to dump a load of manure or human _____ into a town’s well, that would be a simple form or biological warfare – human and animal manure contain bacteria that are _______ in a variety of ways. In the 19th century, American Indians were infected with smallpox through donated blankets.

(Adapted from How stuff works: Marshall Brain, «How Biological and Chemical Warfare Works»


In the text above, the adjective «biological» is used to qualify some nouns to form collocations of adjective+noun. These collocations or pairs of words are so common that you also use them in your own language. Try to find biological+noun combinations in the text and give the equivalent in your own language (there 4 are different ones, 2 of them appear both in the singular and plural forms):

In English we say ... In Spanish/In Catalan we say...





☺ Do you know which nouns do the adjectives biological, chemical, municipal and international come from?

Answer: _____________________________________________________

;) Do adjectives have a plural form in English? The adjective «chemical»

appears in the text and also the word «chemicals». Is this an adjective? What is it? What does it mean?

Answer: _____________________________________________________



Find definitions for chemical (2) and biological (1) weapon(s) in the text:

1.- 2.- 3.-

Adjective suffixes: suffixes such as -al/ial, -ic, -ous/-ious, -ed, -ful, -ish, -y, -like, -ly, form adjectives from nouns (accident>accidental, atom>atomic, ambition>ambitious, point>pointed, success>successful, child>childish, home>homeless, mother>motherly, hair>hairy).

The word


is an

adjective ending in -al ,

the same

as «chemical», «bacteriological», «international», or «municipal». The meaning of this suffix is «having the properties of» or «having a relation to the (noun)».



You may use the sample phrases below to help you build the definition for


1. ...are three ways to spread a chemical or [[biological]] agent so that it would infect a large...

2. ...An effective attack using a chemical or [[biological]] agent can easily kill thousands of peo...

3. ...ile explodes, spreading the chemical or [[biological]] agent over a wide area. A crop-duster...

4. ...ack in order to be protected. Feared [[Biological]] Agents There are many ways to impleme...

5. ...d eight of the most-feared chemical and [[biological]] agents. There are dozens of others tha...

6. ...other. Significant treaties prohibiting [[biological]] and chemical weapons, starting as earl...

7. ...complete skin covering when chemical or [[biological]] attack is deemed possible. If a city w...

8. ...nts There are many ways to implement a [[biological]] attack, but these are some of the most...

9. ...le. Tom Clancy has explored the idea of [[biological]] terrorism in two books: «Executive Ord...

10. ... The Ebola virus was popularized as a [[biological]] warfare agent by two books written by...


1. What is the difference between these two definitions? Using your own words explain the information you may get from the second definition that is not provided in the first one.

amicable suitable between friends;friendly; peaceful (ldoce)

amicable an amicable arrangement or solution is one where people who do not agree with each other are able to solve their problems in a friendly way.


2. Read the following definition for cause. Which of the examples below would you use and why?

Cause: to make something happen, especially something bad

ex 1– Running a pump at too high a speed causes loss of lubrication, which can cause early failure


ex 2– A badly worn pump could cause pressure loss ex 3– The situation caused me a lot of happiness.

ex 4– The new law introduces the principle that gm farmers and gm operators are financially liable for economic damage caused if their crops contaminate non-GM products

ex 5– it caused me a state of well-being and of contentment

ex 6– Unresolved water sources will cause renovations to deteriorate quickly, whether the water comes from building leaks, plumbing leaks or high humidity

ex 7– Seeing her again caused me great joy

3. Read the following examples taken from two dictionaries:

Careless driving kills / He was killed with a knife / Cancer kills thousands of people every year / We need something to kill weeds (ald5)

More than 1,000 people have been killed by the armed forces / Cattle should be killed cleanly and humanely / The earthquake killed 62 people / Heroin can kill (cobuild 2)

a) What can you say about the grammar of kill?

b) In what kind of contexts do you use this word? What kind of subjects and objects appear with it?

Working on Definitions

Aims) General: Listening to a short text/definition. Speaking (whole class):

Giving reasons and opinion.

Specific: Recognising definition structures. Differences between similar concepts.

Procedure) The teacher reads the definition of a concept or word(s) and asks students to write the word they think is being defined. There may be several possible answers. They discuss their choices and decide on one item. The teacher then reads the definition for a similar concept to disambiguate doubts and discusses differences with the class. Students should consider their choice and make up their minds after listening to the first definition again (also the second if necessary) and reason out why it was one thing and not the other.


- Students may discuss with their classmates any word or sound they have not understood and help each other to reach a consensus on what was heard.

- If students have no idea as to what the first word is, the teacher may write all the possible words on the blackboard. The teacher decides how many words to present initially; the suggested initial number is two, which may be expanded to six if students introduce the words in their discussion. If the


students recognize the first word and have no doubts about it, the task may follow a linear structure and the teacher goes on giving definitions to see if they recognize them all.

- Definitions may be of single words or (fixed) eSp collocations (seed coat, seed onion, seed rate, seed ripeness). General English words may also be used (A good idea is to work on entries provided in the Longman Language ACTIVATOR dictionary).

- The focus may be on content but also on aspects such as word formation or the syntax of a word. Derived words, for instance, will make students pay attention to the use of suffixes (saline, salinity, salination / salinization, salinized). The same word with two grammatical functions is another possible option (landscape vb./n.).

- If the students show that they like this kind of activity they may be asked to bring in their own definitions and play the teacher’s role. Adequacy of choice should be discussed with the teacher first.

Suggested words)


Fertilizer Chemical or natural substance spread and mixed with soil to make it richer and stimulate plant growth

Compost Vegetation decomposed under aerobic conditions Manure Animal dung used as fertilizer

Guano Mass of accumulated bird droppings, found specially on small islands in the sea, and used as fertilizer (it is a natural phosphate).

Slurry Liquid waste from animals, stored in tanks and treated to be used as fertilizer; it may also be stored in a lagoon, from which it can either be piped to the fields or transferred to tankers and then distributed

(Definitions taken from: Stephens, Alan (1996) Dictionary of Agriculture. Middlesex: Peter Collin Publishing)

SOIL DRAINAGE, SOIL FERTILITY, SOIL SALINITY, SOIL TEXTURE Soil drainage Drainage of water from soil (either naturally or by putting pipes and

drainage channels into the soil)

Soil fertility Potential capacity of the soil to grow plants

Soil salinity Measurement of the quantity of mineral salts found in a soil Soil texture Relative proportions of sand, silt and clay particles in soil

(Definitions taken from: Stephens, Alan (1996) Dictionary of Agriculture. Middlesex: Peter Collin Publishing)



Landscape (noun) The general shape and appearance of an area of land Landscape (verb) To change the appearance of a garden or park by planting

trees, creating little hills, making lakes, etc.

(Definitions taken from: Stephens, Alan (1996) Dictionary of Agriculture. Middlesex: Peter Collin Publishing)


Some key verbs in research articles

In the following pages, we will review some of the most frequent verbs in research articles in the field of chemistry by analysing a corpus of written academic and technical papers. Most scientific disciplines employ the same key verbs in research papers. It is important that you know how to use these verbs, so pay attention to the explanations and examples given below. Please not that the collocations (words that are frequently used with these verbs) in a number of the examples below are taken from chemistry texts.


A number of the most frequent verbs in research articles refer to a mental process where the researcher finds out something about a method, material or process. These are the verbs calculate, consider, and determine. Verbs like show and observe are verbs of perception and refer to the way attention is directed to something. Observe and study refer to the previous action that leads to the finding.


The verb calculate frequently collocates with the preposition from or with (can be calculated from / something is calculated with absorption and scattering coefficients), values, parameters, and the word (observed, non-corrected) transmittance:

(1) The absorption and scattering coefficients of turbid media could be calculated from observed transmittance

(2) (...) we have to develop computer programs to calculate the probability of the ‘top’ failure. These programs have to accommodate conservatively any



uncertainties in data, and then assign an overall value of uncertainty to the probability of the system failure.

The words via/with/using introduce the way or method used in the calculation:

(3) difference was calculated using an equation which ...

(4) damage resistance parameter Rt was calculated via equation (1)

CONSIDER: collocates with the words method, results, model, details.

(5) kinetic model may be considered for these heterogeneous ...

(6) results were considered sufficient in order to ...

The expression «was/were considered to be + participle/adjective» is preferred instead of a direct statement of the type «It/this was caused/influenced by ...» and


(7) The full discussion must wait for Chapter 5 but we can begin to get an insight into how this comes about when we consider the second property of quantum mechanical states.

(8) These coefficients are considered to be influenced by size, distribution,...

(9) it was therefore considered to be negligible

(10) (...) with clay content was considered to be caused mainly by iron

DETERMINE: The infinitive (expressing an end or finality) appears in periphrases of the type «calculated to determine», «conducted to determine», «used to determine», etc. where a specific activity leads to a determination, or preceded by adjectives like «difficult to determine», «necessary to determine».

Words related to some kind of measure, like value, parameters or with the characteristics of some material, like fracture, mass, viscosity, size are the most frequent collocates of determine. The preposition by introduces a method:


(11) This technique, known as very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI), can determine with great accuracy the distance between two points on the Earth’s surface by using radio telescopes.

(12) It was then conducted to determine the effect of viscosity on...

(13) It is often difficult to determine the exact values of the...

(14) the parameters that determine the molecular size and...

(15) phase chemistry were determined by X-ray fluorescence

OBSERVE: The most frequent collocates of observe are those related to the size and shape of the materials (crystals, (micro)structures, grains, difference, shrinkage, mass loss) some refer to negative results (impurities). The word temperature and also words such as values and phases are also usual collocates:

(16) One would therefore have to believe that many or most of the observed particles such as gluons or quarks are not really elementary, as they seem at the moment, but that they are bound states of the fundamental N = 8 particles.

(17) mullite crystals were observed by Sem

(18) Extremely high levels of impurities were observed in the green parts because of wear


SHOW: Show differs from the previous verbs in that here the researcher somehow assists the reader to perceive something. Thus, words like behaviour, tendency, trend, performance collocate with show to indicate how something develops and what happens when a specific material or method is employed in an experiment:

(19) with wavelength showed almost the same tendency as

(20) The distribution of salt concentrations at which the isolates agglutinated is shown in Figure 3. There was no significant difference between the groups.

(21) All binders showed the same performance

(22) As will be shown later, all the mechanical parameters are in theory interchangeable, and so all such measurements will contribute to the understanding of viscoelastic theory.

Show is followed by a long that-clause to introduce a hypothesis that has been demonstrated:

(23) the diagrams for the measurement of roughness show that after a rather rough grinding (used for roughing but not for overfinishing), the ceramic components have a high degree of settling, although they were obtained in ordinary conditions of compressing and sintering.


This verb collocates with figure(s), data, tables, etc. usually introduced by the preposition in and also appears with percentages:

(24) Figs. 9-13 show the microstructure of the (25) mullite gels show up to 35 % linear shrinkage

STUDY: Objects collocating with study are frequently words referring to the characteristics of the materials under examination or their reactions when applying certain techniques or carrying out experiments with them, or the materials themselves: gravity, properties, thickness, characteristics, behaviour, etc. Collocates for this verb also include words indicating contrast or comparison such as relationship, the influence of. The structure «X was/were used to study Y»

is also frequent, and thus a method or a particular equipment (viscometer, tests, thermogravimetric analysis) may be used to study something:

(20) Historically, one of the earliest frequency-locking phenomena to be studied in laser physics was the locking of three or more longitudinal modes.

(21) Acid rain is thought to have damaged 46 of the 56 sites of special scientific interest (SSIs) in the UK studied in research commissioned by English Nature.


(22) Although small, these single crystals can be studied using an electron microscope.

(23) They had all been extensively studied to evaluate the cause of their diarrhoea and the possibility of bile acid malabsorption was studied by the SeHCAT test.

(24) specific gravity was studied. A controlled viscosity was

TEST: The verb test collocates with samples, systems, rate(s), viscosity and is also found in the prepositional structure was tested against (which is a combination used in a domain specific sense: contrast with, and so things are tested against a pattern or a model, or hypothesis are tested against previous experience or experiments):

(25) Then, a combination of samples A and B were tested against a combination of samples B and C.

(26) samples were tested in accordance with the two (27) desired viscosity was tested. The results suggest that...



The verb measure expresses how the researcher tries to find out differences or similarities between two things or processes. Improve expresses how something is done to correct or make the differences more suitable. Compare (parameters, resistance, temperature, different materials, etc.), and develop would also belong to this type though they are less frequent.

MEASURE: The majority of the objects of measure allude to qualities and properties: concentration, density, toughness, absorption, thickness, shock resistance, transmittance and also to quantity, speed and time: rates, speed, time intervals, velocity, etc. and space (angle, cm, distance):

(24) thicknesses were measured and some of them were (25) time intervals is measured as a square root function of

Temperature and pressure are frequently measured. When the method of measurement is indicated, it is introduced by the words by/with/using or by on when it is an apparatus; adverbs or adverbials introduced by the preposition at are used to express how something is measured:


(26) and prepared bodies measured by X-ray fluorescence (27) constant was measured on a Hewlett Packard 419A (28) damage thresholds measured at more than 9 J/cm2 at (29) samples are being measured simultaneously, it is not

(30) Short wavelengths are measured in millionths of a metre (10 -6; m or micrometre, m) or even billionths of a metre (10 -9; m or nanometre, nm).

DEVELOP: The verb develop co-occurs with the following subjects, objects and modifiers. In many cases the objects appear in subject position in passive voice sentences: «Applications can be developed on a single machine».

COMPARE: Compare is frequently used in the passive voice and is frequently used to contrast percentages in phrases like «a fall of 21 per cent compared with that for 1989». The use of compare when talking about percentages frequently appears in patterns with verbs indicating increase or decrease and with the preposition with or to introducing the second or next element that is being compared (fall/

rise/increase X per cent compared with/to). In these comparisons we may find adjectives like small, high or low to talk about the differences in numbers or amount in the things being compared (frequencies of vibration recorded ... were high compared to those of the Lleyn earthquake). In research papers it is also


common to compare results, figures, samples and data (results will be compared;

compare fig. 3 with figure 4; variation for this sample is compared with that for a branched polyethylene of low crystallinity; by comparing the new data with that for known infrared sources). Compare is coordinated with contrast since comparison and contrast are an important part in experimental research. In this sense, the word then is a recurrent collocate because it introduces the comparison/

contrast stage of the process: «The statistical viability of random sampling is then compared with the non or semi-statistical viability of the other two techniques».

IMPROVE: Improve collocates with words which are understood as desirable conditions or ends: efficiency, quality, performance, properties, design, characteristics, behaviour, etc., that is, good performance, better casting rate, the best quality, and so on. Things may greatly, markedly, significantly, dramatically, or considerably improve:

(31) requirement, but to improve efficiency of the systems (32) should be used to improve plant performance. The (33) fewer fines should improve the casting rate

MAKING AN EVENT POSSIBLE, CAUSING OR CREATING SOMETHING The researcher or the characteristics of the material under examination do something to bring about an event or state to make it possible: make, achieve, allow, permit, cause, lead to.

ALLOW and PERMIT: It is interesting to contrast the use of allow and permit.

There is a tendency to use allow but not permit in the passive voice followed by an infinitive. With the infinitive it implies that no external action affects the materials during the process:

(34) the parts were allowed to cool for 30 s prior to (35) The feedstock was allowed to mix until the torque

Both allow and permit may be used to express that things or experiments are carried out without any difficulty. The agent that collocates with permit or allow in this sense is usually formed by words or phrases like analysis, comparison of...

, collection of (much) data, measurements:

(36) These data allow the absorption and saturation ...

(37) ... the better definition of the new method permits a better fit for the absorption...

the object may be words like characterization, control, study or words referring to positive results like successful processing, optimization of process:

(38) (a supply in) the contact container permits control of the water level


ACHIEVE: Collocates with objects (or subjects when the passive voice is selected) like remission, objective, goal, aim, result and those that denote a positive degree or quality: full density, high precision/quality, uniformity, the desired powder-loading, success, improvement, and also with words like rate, parameters, (viscosity) target, phase:

(39) powder was added to achieve the desired powder-loading (40) full density was achieved in all cases. The high levels (41) saturation phase was achieved at 3.1 min, and, in this

The way or method through which something is achieved is frequently introduced by the preposition by collocating with nouns like combination, use, selection, means, method or technique as in: all of these properties can be achieved by the use of other chemicals.

CAUSE: Usually collocates with negative words as is the tendency for this verb in the English language (see Stubbs 1995:247). The collocates for cause in our corpus are related to the (bad) quality of the materials or to inadequate methods to obtain or process them (damage, pollution, disease, cancer, difficulty, reduction, death, concern, loss, pain, substantial/greater proportional loss, multiple errors, worsening, damage, unreliable measurement, contamination, defective drying):

(42) of the processes that cause porous building material degradation

(43) Both differences probably were caused by a greater proportional loss of water

Modifiers indicating probability (or repeated cause of the problem) introduce the reason why the problem is caused: probably, in part/partly, mainly, rarely, possibly, often, usually, etc. as in: «theophylline probably causes redistribution of potassium into cells».

LEAD to: is followed by nouns which are modified by adjectives indicating some kind of degree or mode: decreased, reduced, faster, high(er), significant, large, catastrophic, continuous, spontaneous. The nouns these adjective modify usually refer to some kind of change in a material or a process: formation, cracks, transformation, breaking, increase, etc.:

(44) size which ultimately lead to cracks on the surface or in (45) tools. This ultimately leads to a significant increase in the (46) characteristics which lead to a decreased performance are

PREPARE: Prepare collocates with the prepositions from, with, at, through and with nouns like slip, slurry, etc.


(47) Suspensions were prepared at 50% solid added pieces of (48) Composites can also be prepared from mullite ZrO2 glass (49) of the slurries prepared under industrial conditions

(50) Slips were prepared using specific formulas and

PRODUCE: Produce is used to express the result of a process as an end or as an improvement or change in comparison to the previous state: a significant increase, satisfactory slips, an important quantity, coarser particles, sanitaryware, etc. The preposition by introduces a method or process:

(50) was too porous to produce satisfactory slips for actual (51) reaction sintering produces coarser ZrO2 particles than (52) Powder A is produced by the carbothermal reduction process VERBS EXPRESSING MANIPULATION AND CHANGE

Some verbs are used to express that an agent manipulates something so that it is changed to some extent. Verbs belonging to this semantic type are: make, heat, cool, quench, sinter, cast, dry, increase, decrease, reduce, mix, cut, mill, etc. Only the most frequent are discussed here.

MAKE: has a causative sense in examples where the object is followed by an adjective (frequently followed by another verb in the to-infinitive form:

(53) These attributes make AIN an attractive material for (54) of these parameters makes it possible to relate them

With the preposition of (indicating composition) or from (indicating source), make has the sense of producing by putting materials together, manufacture:

(55) components were made from this recycled feedstock (56) The component is made of aluminous ceramics

Make may collocate with words like comparison, test, components, observations, test samples, etc. and in the same sense (though not as frequent as make) we find the verb perform collocating with tests, studies, method:

(57) Comparison was made between the new and standard (58) types of tests were made: Comparison between the new (59) The tests were performed in an Instron machine with

USE: For use, something is manipulated to change or develop something else.

Words like method, tests, system and words denoting different materials are the usual collocates functioning as the subject of use:


The gerund, using, frequently introduces a method, a machine, or an equation:

(61) were measured using the Hitachi Colour Analyzer

Used is followed by to introducing a specific activity (compare, determine, describe, form, obtain, represent, study). It is followed by for to indicate a purpose and is followed by a gerund or a noun and the preposition of:

(62) the Biot number is used to represent the heat transfer (63) transducer was used to compare the energies applied (64) the water can be used to control chemical and physical (65) method was used for calculating the fractional

(66) casting is also used for the production of wash

The prepositional phrases in comparison, in (the) production (of), in X calculations, in this paper/study collocate with use and follow it:

(67) This is especially used in production of WC models. The (68) strength was used in R calculations.

Used is preceded by modifiers like: widely, commonly, extensively, currently, only, also and successfully.

HEAT: collocates with the preposition in to introduce the place where the heating process is carried out:

(69) on all sides, were heated in a vertical tubular furnace

The prepositions to and at introduce temperature and time: AT + ºC/min + TO + ºC:

(70) Y203 samples were heated at 2.5°C/min to 1835°C.

The noun appears in the collocations: rapid heating, infrared heating, heating rates, cooling or heating and with prepositions like during.

MIX: This verb may appear with words like: constituents, feedstock, slip, powder.

The syntactic structure «mixed at (a solids loading of x vol. % / 180rpm) at 120 ºC» appears frequently in the co-text of mix:

(71) constituents are not mixed and stirred well, then the size (72) The feedstock was mixed at 180 rpm at 120°C. Initially

DECREASE and REDUCE: In the present tense, decrease and reduce show preference for the use of different syntactic patterns For decrease the thing that diminishes is the subject, for reduce it is the object: X decreases / Y reduces X.


(73) Green bulk density decreases as the chain length and (74) ware and, thus, reduce the number of rejects

Frequent collocates for decrease and reduce are words related to the quality of the material or process: performance, density, gravity, (impurity) levels, contamination, wear:

(75) impurity levels can be decreased, which should lead to

INCREASE: Words preceding the verb increase may be related to quantity or strength, weight, volume or value: concentration, pressure, mass, density, size, value, number. The words following increase usually refer to some kind of process:

production, powder loading, conductivity, reexpansion. Adverbs indicating degree may also follow the verb increase (e.g. significantly). When the starting and final point of the increase are quantified, prepositions (from) - to, and the expression up to are used:

(76) grain size also increases from 3.11 to 3.25

(77) have continued to increase the thermal conductivity of (78) with pva binders increase significantly


Obtain, present, provide, require, represent. In a give and take process information is obtained or provided while problems are presented or «present themselves». (See also verbs of perception above: show, calculate...)

OBTAIN: Collocates with words related to numerical information: results, data, coefficients, equations, information, etc. and words related to some material quality: density, absorption, etc.

(79) data can easily be obtained experimentally

Prepositional syntactic structures with by (indicating method) and from (indicating source) can be seen in examples like:

(80) The equations are obtained from simplification of the (81) effects can be obtained by sintering at different

PRESENT: This verb collocates with: problems, difficulties, a few cases, cracks, etc. When used with the preposition in, it introduces figures, at is selected for meetings:

(82) (over 1.5 mm), even presenting cracks. In Table 2, the (83) from alkoxide often presents problems due to the


(84) is based on a paper presented at the American Ceramic Society Convention (85) is 0.994. The results presented in Table 4 and the

PROVIDE and REQUIRE: Provide collocates with some kind of data allowing a better understanding of a problem (an example, information, some understanding, an easy solution, accuracy):

(86) ensembles would provide more information as to the

or with words indicating some quality that is required (densification/density, strength, absorption coefficient, the required pressure):

(87) molecular weights provide higher green strength when...

(88) processing, which provides molecular level homogeneity (89) to approxi. 1375 °C, providing sintering resistant pore materials a common phrase is provided in solution X:

(90) Wacker) had been provided in solution (50 wt%) by the

Require is used with in to indicate a stage or phase; with to and for to introduce an end:

(91) precise control is required in every production stage (92) homogeneous mixing is required for consistent feedstock (93) and research are required to compare the performance

Require is used in the passive voice when something has to be done to the subject (time, experience, conditions, a few castings) or is needed so that an aim is achieved:

(94) a few castings are required, seems to be the biggest

REPRESENT: The verb represent is used to exhibit or perform different kinds of (image) information provided in the articles. It is used to show a thing, to depict some kind of data, to exemplify, and collocates with figure, table, data, parameter and slope, peak, broken lines, curves, etc.:

(95) and broken lines represent body (C) with 0.96 mm and (96) and R parameter is represented in Fig. 1 which shows (97) Solid lines represent transmittance curves of body A



There is a lot of information in the language use section above. You are advised to read it thoroughly. As a way to understand and remember how these verbs are used, you may try to write sentences using those verbs and their colloca- tions. Try to write five sentences each week using data provided in this unit.

Keep doing so until you no longer need to go to the section above to write your own sentences.

Exercise 1. Complete the missing words using the clues:

In an experiment d_ _ _ are observed information is obtained

pro_ _ ded

Values and parameters are det _ _ _ _ _ ed repr_ _ _ nted

c_ l _ _ _ _ _ _ ed obt _ _ _ ed

ob _ _ _ _ ed


coefficients are co_ _ _ dered

and results are pres_ _ ted

Exercise 2. Complete the following sentences using prepositions:

1. Samples were heated __ 2.5ºC/min __ 1835ºC. (at, to)

2. Thermal conductivities could be further improved __ optimizing the sintering cycle. (by)

3. Parameter Rt was calculated ___ equation (1). (via)

4. Composites can also be prepared ____ mullite ZrO2 glass powder. (from) 5. The feedstock was mixed __ 180rpm __ 120ºC. (at, at)


via / using equations  


Exercise 3. The following words and phrases describe products/materials. Write each quality under the verb they may usually appear with. Some of them may appear under more than one verb:

good quality substantial loss contamination

unreliable measurement the desired quality damage problems an improvement viscosity target impurities cracks

defective drying uniformity optimization of process




1. oxide ____________

2. thick ____________

3. author ____________

4. photograph ____________

5. completed ____________

6. defined ____________

7. heat ____________

8. modification ____________

9. those ____________

10. heat ____________

You may want to use Or any CD or online dictionary that includes pronunciation.




Listen (open your ear) and decide which are the missing words or phrases. Your teacher will read the text.

Source: American Society For Technion - Israel Institute Of Technology (http://

Date: Posted 2/25/2002

Plastic LEDs Break Telecommunications Barrier; Widespread Applications In Fiber Optics Possible

HAIFA, Israel and NEW YORK, N.Y., February 22, 2002 –

In the past few years, ________ (plastics) that emit ______ light have stirred excitement with the prospect of inexpensive, flexible products. But the huge optical telecommunications market seemed ______ to these new __________ _________

because the plastics could not emit efficiently in the ___-_____ (near IR) band where the optical fibers that carry the communications are most transparent.

In today’s Science, Dr. Nir Tessler and his team at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, together with Uri Banin and his team at ______ University in Jerusalem, announce a way to ___ polymers to emit _____-___ radiation by incorporating tiny nanocrystals in the polymers. Once commercialized, such nanocrystal _________ could potentially cut the costs of the hundreds of millions of __________________ _________ needed to bring _____ optic communications to individual homes, opening the family doors to global networks.

Polymer _____-_______ diodes (LEDs) are much cheaper to make than conventional solid state LEDs and lasers. In the conventional devices, materials are laid down in a vacuum and _______ __ _____ through a patterned mask.

Then part of the layer is removed by acid in a _______, _____-____ process.

But because polymers are soluble in various solvents (organic solvents, _____, _______), polymer layers can be sprayed onto materials with ___-___ printers, forming devices as the solvent evaporates in a much simpler and cheaper method.

Visible light-emitting polymers already are being incorporated into products ranging from flat panel displays to infant mobiles.

Many of the missing words in the text above are compound words which are formed using a hyphen to join two words or a prefix or suffix to a word.

1. Write a list containing all the hyphenated words in the text and the words they modify.


Some prefixes are very productive when it comes to forming new words. Think of words beginning with super- or hyper- such as hypermedia or superhero. The prefix cyber-, as in cybernetics and cyberspace is becoming a favourite one. Its meaning is «relating to computers, especially the Internet». Look at the following words and their definitions:

Cybercitizen: user of the WWW

Cybercaster: person broadcasting information (like sports updates) on the Internet.

Cybercrat: Internet enthusiast

Cyberdetective: Police officer tracking down suspects of Internet crimes Cyber-dino: computer animated dinosaur (Spielberg’s cyber-dinos)

A number of words refer to personal relationships which are carried out on the Internet:

A cyber-romance is a love affair conducted on the Internet

... and the partners in that affair are called «cyber-sweetheart», «cybersweetie»

or «cyberlover». A male partner is also called a «cyber-Romeo». Likewise, a female partner in an adulterous relationship is called a «cybervamp» (no male word for the same concept, only cyber-Romeos exist!?...).

Individuals may be helped online or they may be attacked, and so may countries or enterprises. That is why we may talk of getting help online («cyber-help») and we may also talk of «cyber-safety», «cyberlaw» and


ORGANISING YOUR IDEAS: WRITING DEFINITIONS Could you put forth a definition for the following words?

cybercar cybertrend

cyberbabe cyberego cyberprofile cyberbullying cybercash cyberhermit





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